Cultural Encounters: A Journal For The Theology Of Culture Volume 11 Number 1 (Winter 2015) - Page 33

VOLUME 11, NUMBER 1 A JOURNAL FOR THE THEOLOGY OF CULTURE contributes to homogenous group formation and intergroup division. Group polarization is defined as the propensity for ingroup members to adopt extreme positions on a relevant dimension in order to further distance themselves from the outgroup.19 Whether the distinctions are meaningful or not, groups are inclined to move toward one extreme in order to distinguish themselves from the outgroup.20 It is likely that this vigilance has ethological origins; in other words, it was adaptive for humans to distance themselves from potentially dangerous outsiders and form distinct coalitions with supportive others.21 However, these ethological origins continue to impact intergroup behavior today. For example, conservative people become extremely conservative in an effort to distinguish themselves from liberals, and vice versa. This natural inclination to move toward the extreme in order to distinguish the ingroup from the outgroup is exacerbated by the fact that group members tend to spend the majority of their time with fellow ingroup members who confirm their beliefs, attitudes, and way of life. The only people who are contributing to the important conversations of their lives are the people who already happen to agree with them. It is relatively easy for ingroup members to believe that they are unequivocally right when everyone around them agrees with them. Group polarization, which begins as a tool to distinguish the group from other groups, eventually gives way to perspective divergence, one of the primary contributors to intergroup division. Perspective divergence22 is a group phenomenon in which each ingroup perceives that its unique characteristics are prototypical for a superordinate group, which they often 19. Serge Moscovici and Marisa Zavalloni, “The Group as a Polarizer of Attitudes,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 12, no. 2 (1969): 125–135, doi:10.1037/h0027568; David G. Myers and Helmut Lamm, “The Group Polarization Phenomenon,” Psychological Bulletin 83, no. 4 (1967): 602–627, doi:10.1037/0033-2909.83.4.602. 20. Emanuele Castano et al., “I Belong, Therefore, I Exist: Ingroup Identification, Ingroup Entitativity, and I ngroup Bias,” Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 28, no. 2 (2002): 135–143, doi:10.1177/0146167202282001. 21. Robert Kurzban and Mark R. Leary, “Evolutionary Origins of Stigmatization: The Functions of Social Exclusion,” Psychological Bulletin 127, no. 2 (2001): 187– 208. 22. Thomas Kessler and Amélie Mummendey, “Why Do They Not Perceive Us as We Are? Ingroup Projection as a Source of Intergroup Misunderstanding,” in Intergroup Misunderstandings: Impact of Divergent Social Realities, ed. Stéphanie Demoulin, Jacques-Philippe Leyens, and John F. Dividio (New York: Psychology Press, 2009), 135–152. 32